The dismissal of the PILs seeking an independent probe into the alleged “mysterious” death of Judge B H Loya came close on the heels of the same bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud declaring the CJI could assign any case to any bench of his choice. Questioning the CJI is scandalous and erodes judicial independence.
Justice Chandrachud declared the PILs seeking a probe into Judge Loya’s death on December 1, 2014 were scandalous and a direct attack on the judiciary. He said these PILs were filed to settle political scores without hinting at any party. The BJP has now alleged it was Rahul Gandhi’s “invisible hand”.
After the verdict, Dr Anuradha Biyani, the doctor-sister of Judge Loya, allegedly declared she had no faith in the judiciary, which may be contemptuous if she did say this. What is a fact is that Justice Ranjan Gogoi confirmed on January 12 that India’s four seniormost judges addressed the media because among other things, the Judge Loya case was assigned to a bench of the CJI’s choice. But Chandrachud et al refused to declare these judges’ allegations “scandalous.”
The Supreme Court judgment dismissing the PILs seeking a probe into the death of Judge Loya came soon after a district court in Andhra Pradesh acquitted all the accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts case which killed eight persons. Both these judgments are unwittingly a shot-in-the-arm for the saffron brigade.
Judge Ravinder Reddy resigned soon after acquitting the five in the Mecca blasts case—although he had two months left to retire. Some media reports allege he was facing an ACB corruption case. But the AP high court has denied these allegations. A few analysts equate Judge Reddy with Judge Loya on the reasoning that the lower judiciary is not insulated from pressure.
In any case, Justice Chandrachud declared that four judges, who accompanied Judge Loya, declared he died of a heart attack, which corroborated autopsy reports. Questioning judges is like questioning God, Chandrachud has hinted.
To return to the Mecca blasts acquittals, we must not forget Rohini Salian, the plucky Public Prosecutor, who declared in 2015 that NIA’s Suhas Warke told her to “go soft” against the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. She was removed when she did not oblige. The NIA is under Narendra Modi (read the RSS) and it is far-fetched to assume the RSS will allow its pracharaks to be convicted when it runs the country. Hemant Karkare was the one who nabbed the so-called “saffron terrorists” and he too is dead—like judge Loya.
We also forget CBI Special Judge S J Sharma in Mumbai, who ordered the media not to report the Sohrabuddin fake encounter proceedings where Amit Shah was earlier discharged. Mercifully, his absurd order was quashed by the Bombay high court. But his order shielded the accused from public scrutiny.
There is something funny in these Hindutvavadis being acquitted in a chain which means India has no saffron terrorists. Not a single so-called “saffron terrorist” has been convicted till date. If these five did not plant a pipe bomb in the mosque in 2007, then who did? Swami Aseemanand’s confession to a magistrate was never considered by Judge Ravinder Reddy after it was retracted. But why did he make it? Acquittal does not mean innocence. It means crucial evidence was destroyed.
Senior RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi was shot dead under mysterious circumstances at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007 while the two other accused, Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra, have been absconding. If all were innocent, why did they flee? Another RSS pracharak, Devendra Gupta, was also acquitted despite the fact that on March 8, 2017, an NIA special court in Jaipur had sentenced him to life imprisonment in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast.
The police recovered a red shirt, which belonged to an accused, from the blast site which was later destroyed. Former NIA special director N R Wasan, who supervised the case in its later stages, confirmed that this red shirt disappeared. It contained the DNA of a suspect who had left behind two bags with bombs at the Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007. But only one exploded. So, who destroyed the red shirt?
The Mecca Masjid judgment reiterates that whenever India witnesses large-scale violence against its minorities and Dalits, the investigation is a farce. Major incidents of violence against minorities like the Nellie massacre (1983), Sikh massacre (1984), Hashimpura custodial massacre of Muslim youth (1987), the pre and post-Ayodhya violence against Muslims (1990-92), Gujarat carnage (2002) and Kandhmal cleansing of Christians (2008) actually prove that ever since the BJP came to power in 2014, there has not been a single conviction of Hindutva ultras.
Perhaps, this was why Justice Jasti Chelameswar declared on January 12 that democracy was in danger. And with the Allahabad high court in a controversy over appointment of judges, who were alleged to be relatives of sitting or retired judges, perhaps Justice Chelameswar’s words are prophetic. If judges appoint judges who declare they can never be questioned, as Justice Chandrachud has done, Indian democracy may be in danger.
Olav Albuquerque is a journalist cum lawyer of the Bombay high court and holds a PhD in media law.